Saturday, March 01, 2008

Last Comic Standing

Last night I had a dream that everyone fell under a spell. One by one, everyone around me became enchanted by it's power. They didn't act crazy or homicidal or anything like that, they just dressed a like, talked a like about the same things and had no interested in examining themselves or this strange force at work in our lives. Like a soft cancer, it settled into every aspect of life. I stood apart from it, fascinated by it's lure and amazed that I seemed very much in the minority. I woke up with it's name on my lips; mediocrity.
Thats right. I tried out for last comic standing yesterday.
If this were a movie you would see me wake up in tangled sheets gasping for air, sweating proverbial bullets. It would fade to black and the words, the previous day would appear on screen.
So lets do it Hollywood style, shall we.

The Day job

The boss from New York received my long e-mail detailing what I feel needs to happen to the gym for it to be maintained properly and for me to stay. It's not a bad job, but I am up against the power of money. They want to rip it all down in two years and build a bright shinning tower to yuppies. Problem is, they want to keep the club going until that day comes. Until that day, no money is being put into the facility.
We have holes in the roof, rust on machines and a membership that is mostly the age of 60 and up. Most of my day consists of members yelling at me that standards have fallen and why are we running out of items like soap?
I want to scream back, we have no money!
It's true. We sometimes have to wait a week to make sure checks have cleared before we can order the most basic supplies.
Yet, it is a good day time gig. I like having health insurance too.
I am not my day job though. No. Instead, I chose to get my identity from a far more intangible source; stand-up comedy.
I have written this many times. You need exposure to get anywhere in that business. Talent is far from enough.
A call comes from Tom, who books Cobb's comedy club.
"You still want to do this Last Comic Standing thing?"
"Sure. Why not."
"Alright. Be down here at 11:30 and will get you on the line up."
"Thanks Tom."
I have just been given a Golden Willy Wonka ticket to avoid the line that wraps around the block. Where maybe two hundred people wait. Some seem normal enough. Some, not so much. There is a woman dressed as a tree, a short man wearing a Viking helmet with a sword taller than himself by 2 feet. What appears to be a few homeless people who have fallen into the line for no other reason than why not, and a lot of undiagnosed mental illness. You can feel an odd energy in the air. I have reeked of it myself in the past and recognize it immediately. It is desire that is mixed with fear. It is desperation mixed with the idea that this could be it. This is not to say that everyone in line is a nut, I have some friends in that line and some very good comics spent the night sleeping on concrete all for two minuets on a giant stage in front of two producers.
I show up and find a few others who have been summoned. With a few of the other, "Invitational's" we go in the back of the club. We are led past garbage cans and rusted gates by people wearing shinny plastic I.D.'s around their necks and walking briskly.
Cameras are everywhere. People are everywhere. We are led down stairs into the catacombs of Cobb's sprawling basement. Giant lights and thin black veils separate the open areas into smaller boxes of light and humming equipment. We are told to keep quiet as we file in to the first of many interviews conducted by mostly bored interns and P.A.'s. You would think all this energy and orchestration was a place to plan an invasion. In a sense it is. This show will be beamed into living rooms across the nation. It is a network show. That gives it a credibility that the internet and cable still have not reached. But it also means that behind everything, there is a force at work molding all who wish to enter.
I have known people who have made it onto this show. It changed their lives.
Thats why I am willing to walk into it. Thats why all of us are here; to change our lives.
Heres how it works.
The first audition is in-front of the producers. They see everyone. The nuts, the new people and us. When I say "Us", I mean professional working comics. Comics who have paid whatever sort of dues you can think of.
After 15 years, cutting in line is the least they should do for us.
After paper work and interviews that will never be seen by anyone, we are lined up in groups. Thats the day mostly. Waiting in one line and being taken by people wearing earphones to another line. We stand in the kitchen and slowly, ever so slowly make our way to the stage. The two acts right before me are a guy dressed as a penguin and a guy who strapped two giant pasta strainers to both sides of his head and is a fly.
I have worked this club before. I feel like that gives me something of an advantage. I know this stage.
When my time comes, another guy with a plastic I.D. around his neck and a earphone radio tells me to start walking up those tiny black steps to the stage.
It might be a stage I am use to, but this is not the usual situation at all. About 40 feet from the stage at the center of the room sits two women behind a news caster style desk. There is a camera on a giant crane that silently moves about like the menacing tentacle of some alien robot probe. There are several other stationary cameras quietly taking in the view and lights that are so intense they feel more like a weight on my face than light.
Nervous? Thrown?
I feel a curios rumble in my bowels. This is something other than nerves though. This is the cilium husks I took last night starting to have an effect on me.
What great timing!
I take the mic out and launch into a collection of my jokes I am most happy with at the moment.
They actually smile at some of the punch-lines.
One of the producers stops me around the two minuet mark.
"You were barreling through your jokes. Slow down and be the Joe KLocek we all know and love tonight."
In other words, I am moving onto to the next set of auditions this afternoon. I am not in the big show yet, but I am a step closer.
It is Paige. She is one of the producers on the show.
Heres some odd history for you.
Years ago at the Punchline, we were on the bill together. I was opening and she middling. I destroyed and the next night they reversed the order.
I am still here though and she is making more money than I have seen in my entire comedy career so far.
More cameras get in my face asking how it feels. More paper work and lines and plastic people doing their job without passion or wondering why.
They are parts in the machine I am so eagerly attempting to join in the most audacious way; by being good.
I have time to call the day job and fill them in. What I thought might be two hours at the most is turning into a all day thing.
My phone battery is dying, I have to constantly shit and I keep looking at my little black book of scribbled jokes asking myself what I should do for the next round.

The next round

A few of us make a run for lunch and get above ground to make calls. I eat a burrito and shit again. What the hell is in those pills?
This round, we line up and get to perform for the celebrity judges. One of the guys on the new show, Chuck and the guy from third rock from the sun.
I get moved onto the next round. A guy who moves with the efficiency of a SWAT team member takes me to the head of more stairs and tells me I will walk down them, hit my mark and Bill Bellamy will interview me. Like a cow going down a shoot to his final reward, I walk down the stairs and when I walk past yet another black fabric barrier, I am blinded by an industrial strength light; Bill's teeth.
He is tall. I don't remember anything other than that. I stand next to him like a prop for less than a minuet answering questions about how I feel. Then, it's out another set of doors where another bored looking person whose job consists of sitting on a stool in the dark and pointing to where the comics who made it, shows me where to exit.
Somewhere on a stair well leading to the surface where no one else is, I let myself smile that genuine smile of accomplishment.
Now I let myself start to dream.
I am on the show tonight along with 16 other acts. I am going to be seen on network TV. If I can get past this night, I am on!
You can't help it. No matter how many times I have told other comics to take it set by set and let it go, I am picturing myself in a sunny L.A. office with a manger asking me what I want to do?
Now comes the business part of this. For those who are performing tonight, we have to fill out a half inch thick packet of paper work. Contract. credit check and background check.
I want to tell jokes, not join the C.I.A. or rent an apartment.
It takes 30 minuets to fill out and most of the questions I can only answer with a Not Available.
Then, its back to the car with yet another ticket waiting for me.
San Francisco gives them out like Valentines day cards. I drive back to the day job, where nothing has blown up and what little paper work that sits on my desk can wait till monday when I come back in and pee all over desks and say, I quit fuckers!
I turn right around and head back to the basement where we have been told to be at 6:45 for the 8:00 show.
There we are. I know most of the people on the show. There are also a bunch of people from other cities who apparently already did their first round elsewhere and are doing the show here. Seattle is well represented. A guy from Minneapolis who keeps saying he is surprised that he is not nervous and two hot girls who don't talk to anyone but themselves are also there.
I sit at a table with Larry "Bubbles" Brown, Candy Churrila, Mike E. Winfield, Jason Downs, Drenon Davis, Tony dijamco and the Meehan brothers.
We do what comics do in this situation, alleviate the tension by rifing tasteless jokes with each other.
I think Candy won this unofficial round telling Larry, that his snack of corn nuts smelled like a retards feet.
Ah karma.

The Show

At 7:30, we are still asking each other questions. Can we do the same stuff? How much time are we getting? How do they judge us? Do we get a check if were in AFTRA? What does this all mean, really?
At a quarter to eight, the director and producers come down stairs and fill us in. Paige, gives us the low down. "Congratulations on getting this far. You are the best of the best. There is no set number of people who will be picked. If you hear your name called, you walk down the center to the judges table where you will be handed a red envelope. This is important, don't open it because there is nothing inside."
A handful of us laugh and riff some variation on, just like Hollywood, or just like our dreams, or of course.
I ask about doing the same jokes.
"Do what you feel represents you the best."
The second guessing begins in earnest now.
What represents me the best? Shit! After 15 years you would think I would have this down.
Now comes the pacing, the looking at notes and the last line we will be herded into tonight. Oh, I am 15th in a line up of 16 acts. It dosent bother me. I know I can hold my own in a late slot. I am just not so great with the 3 minuet thing. Ask any girlfriend I ever had. I just don't like quickies. I have been spoiled by all my ample San Francisco stage time and the short forum is not what I do best.
The line winds through the kitchen once again. Slowly, ever so slowly I go from behind a wall, to sitting on a giant stainless steel table to against a wall. Oh, and I run to the bathroom a lot.
A lot.
The "bathroom" that is nearest to us is barely a bathroom. It has a toilet in it, but it also has a mop bucket, drain and a thin coating of every pathogen known to man.
This is the glamorous side no one ever thinks about.
Hand written signs with exaggerated exclamation marks warn you not to flush paper towels in english and spanish. Ever see Trainspotting? The scene where he goes into the dirtiest toilet in all of Scotland? It's like that.
In a situation like this, you look for signs. Everyone is grasping for some positive cue from the universe. When I made it to a cafe before the 6:45 call time, the number I was handed for my order was 1.
In the bathroom there is a soap dispenser with the brand name, gojo on it.
I continue to debate with myself right up to the end about what to do. I am also grateful that Mike Meehan is standing behind me with his brothers. Mike has always been a calming influence. He is a zen rock garden in an otherwise chaotic garden of weeds.
Eventually, I move from standing against the wall in the kitchen to standing directly behind the stage on a X made with white tape on the floor.
I am next!
You can hear the roar of the crowd. They are hot! The place is amped in the way that only TV cameras artificially create.
Bill Belamay says my name and it's up the stairs and out into the light and noise of a crowd on fire.
I put my hands above my head and they respond with the typical extra howl of energy. There is no time for give it up to the host, or how are you, or keep it going for the other acts-it is time to kick the doors in and be the Joe Klocek we all know and love.
So thats what I do.
Laughter and applause breaks are my reward. When I say good night and walk off, I have that feeling that is so rare but is the high you chase as a comic. I know it was a perfect set. I can count on my hands when I have had this feeling. I can count on one hand when that has been rewarded however.
These are rare moments; when you can live up to your own expectations. It's all you can ask for. Its a great feeling to have. It tells me I can do this and it tells me if they don't pick me its not because I wasn't funny.
Now comes the hard part, waiting.

The End?

It is almost 11:00PM. It has been a 12 hour roller coaster ride. Kevin Avery, the friend and comic we just roasted last weekend has been given the impossible situation of going up at the end and doing time as we are positioned in two neat rows behind him. Its pandemonium. P.A.'s are swirling around the stage micro managing us, cameras are moving and the audience is growing impossibly wrestles. Kevin, in a impossible situation, does great though. After all, he is a pro.
Now, Bill comes back and explains to the crowd what has already been drilled into our heads back stage already. Then, it begins. A name is called and the crowd responds with a burst of applause. Then, Bill goes silent. He is being told the names on an ear piece at a pace meant to produce theatrical tension that the cameras eat up like rabid wolves. You can feel their lenses lapping up all the smiles and expressions of let down.
It goes like this, "The next move on, is..................INSERT NAME HERE."
One by one, people are called and go down to the judges table to get their empty red envelopes and bask in the energy of a crowd that looks bored by now. When I look at the audience, I am struck by the unusual number of hot women seated at the tables. I look at a blond in the front row who seems to be flawless. She gives me that little cheerleader wave of the hand and a smile I will be thinking about till the day I die.
Afterwards we find out that a craigslist add was placed for attractive women to attend the show.
Even the audience has been casted!
Then, Bills says the words that send a chill down the spine of everyone left on stage, "There is one ticket left!"
It has to be me. Right?
This whole part of the show is dragged out for about 15 minuets. For 15 minuets my heart feels like a trapped bird and my chest is the cage it is trying to escape from. My mouth is dry and I laugh for no other reason than what else can you do? I am hot, tired and after 12 hours of hurry up and wait and more than anything else in the world, I want this. God, I want this!
For a guy who is so comfortable knocking the establishment constantly, I am always surprised by how much I want that little pat on the head this would mean.
I lick my chapped lips for the thousandth time in a row and shift weight from one foot to the other taking a deep breath.
This is what is going through my head. OK, If I don't get called, It means nothing. I can go back to my life and work at just being happy inside my own skin. Maybe if I had done more of that work there would be that extra spark in my eyes and my name would of already been called. Don't think that Joe! But I will be OK. I will not fall into depression and fuck my life up with the lie that is in the bottom of a bottle or the darkness I can pull around myself like a familiar blanket. I will still be a respected comic in this town. This will be alright. So what. Then again. It could be me. I could be called and move on and that means more face time on that box that sits in every home in America. That means I will have won a lottery like no other. It means people will have to learn how to say my name. It means, it means....
"The last move"
Not me.
The girl standing next to me whispers, "Now what?"
"We get the fucked off this stage." I say.
I am crushed. Devastated. Ruined.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
We file back into the kitchen. The winers and losers are kept separated. We are not allowed to go downstairs and get our stuff. The cameras are down there now on the shining faces of the winners.
When I ask why we have to wait a P.A. tells me the judges want to come and shake our hands.
I say, "I think it's to give the winners time to go through our stuff."
Tony, my good friend and former roommate looks at me and says, "No regrets."
"Well, one big regret!"
A guy standing next to him laughs.
Tom, the booker and former owner of Cobb's surprises me. He walks right up to me and without a word simply hugs me and says "sorry Buddy."
This is the moment I find I have to keep the tears back. I blink and then Tom, true to form goes into a rant. "I can't believe they are rewarding bad comedy, hack shit and old jokes! I am going to talk to Paige!"
I didn't see anyone else set. I can't say I agree or disagree with him. But here is a curious fact I am sure is sinking like a stake into everyones head back stage; they did pick all the young and pretty people with flawless skin and unnaturally white teeth.
It was casting. Not who was funny.
The only redeeming thing was they did take the Meehan Brothers.
Even they were surprised.
I stood on stage and watched the two judges explode with laughter consistently during my set. I walked off that stage knowing I had the crowd with me from word one. I know that talent, ability and skill will always be trumped by youth & beauty. Hell, I have allowed it to happen in my own life on more than one occasion. Why are we all so willing to give beautiful people attributes they may lack? Because their pretty? Or because they were more funny than I was?
We all just stand there for a few minuets looking at our feet with the knowledge that we are the left overs, the bargain bin of CD's, the pants with one leg shorter than the other.
We are the island of misfit toys. We work. We are funny. But we are what we are and show Biz is what it is too.
But fuck!
So close again. So close to getting in-front of a larger audience where I could take it to the people and end up with a million fans hitting my site in a single night to see the uncensored and undeniably funny that I can create.
This business is so unfunny most of the time.
I excuse myself after shaking hands with the celebrity judges and do what I have been waiting to do all day.
Take a shit.
Then I cry a bit and tell myself not to let it sink into my bones and break me.
I turn to the paper dispenser and take the last 8 square inch of toilet paper.
Of course this is how the night ends. Me in the basement of Cobb's wiping tears on my sleeve and wondering how to exit this situation with grace.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

F'ing Parking!

Driving in the city has to be one of the 9 circles of hell. First of all, I drive a stick. To those of you who don’t understand what this means, it means don’t pull right up on my ass when were on a hill!

I swear. Sometimes I think about putting a bumper sticker on the back of my car that simply says, bad with stick-stay off my ass. But I fear this might be greatly misinterpreted in some parts of town. I could start a parade by accident.

We all know the special hell that is returning late at night to your place only to spend the next half hour searching for a parking space. You become Goldie Locks.
That space is too small, that space is street cleaning tomorrow, that space would be just right if that dick weed who parked in front of me would of pulled up a few more inches!

That’s the thing. After you have driven in the city for a while, you look at every possible space, even if you’re walking, and ask yourself, “Could my car fit there?”
The entire city turns into one life size game of Tetris. You can’t turn it off. I will be in a conversation with someone and see a car pull out of a space. All I can think of how much I was turning the corner in my car at this moment. Have you ever just said fuck it? You know the ticket will cost you $20.00, but so would a night in the garage.
I will pay ridiculous amounts of money to park in a garage run by greasy men in stained blue overalls. This is why the homeless don’t get the money they use to. Everyone keeps it for meters or garages. I bet if we lowered the price of parking garages in the city, we could set aside at least one level in each one for a homeless shelter. The homeless get a place with a roof and we get inexpensive parking.

I never remember where I parked in garages anyway. I know I should write it down, but its like Easter when I was a kid. Where did I park that damn car? I think I have a better system than numbers and letters. A system that takes advantage of San Francisco’s uniqueness.
Divide up the different levels and sections by smells.
“Where did we park?”
“Level pot smoke, section over powering stench of urine.”
“That’s right.”
Tell me that wouldn’t work!

Barack Hussein Obama!

Here is something amazing we have not witnessed in modern political memory; Republicans apologizing for a smear attempt on a Democrat.
Seriously. How afraid are they of running against this guy?
The Republican National Committee put out a press release showing Barack in flowing white robes. To a lot of the ignorant Americans out there, wearing anything that looks like that says you’re a Muslim.
Muslim = terrorist. Barack Hussein Obama! You just know he is a Muslim terrorist with a name like that and look at what he is wearing!
The press release included this statement “…growing chorus of Americans concerned about the future of the nation of Israel…if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States.”
When was the last time you heard any other politicians middle named used?
Hell, when was the last time any one old, white and Christian gave a damn about Jews?
I can just picture a smoke filled room somewhere in the basement of the white House where a bunch of guys sat around and decided to put aside their own anti-Semitic feelings and use it as a way to bring down a black man on the rise. But they got caught. By their own people!

The press release now includes a clarification that reads: "This release originally referenced a photo of Sen. Obama and incorrectly termed it to be “Muslim” garb. It is, in fact, Somali tribal garb; hence, we have deleted the photo. Also, in order to diffuse attempts by Democrats and the Left to divert attention from the main point of this release — that Sen. Obama has surrounded himself with advisers and received endorsements from people who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel — we have deleted the use of Barack Obama’s middle name."

Wow! You see whats going on here? The Republicans usual tactic of hit & run is leaving a foul taste in the mouths of their own people. It is such a childish and stupid thing to pull off. It insults their party members more than anyone else. Because what was the thinking here? We will show him in what the typical uneducated American thinks of as Muslim wear, always use his full name because it includes the name of a former enemy and then incorrectly identify what he is wearing as Arab garb.

So this is what they have on Obama so far.
He is not patriotic enough because he doesn’t wear a flag pin.
He is not patriotic enough because he didn’t put his hand on his heart when the Star Spangled Banner was sung. FYI, you don’t have too. It’s the pledge of allegiance that you are supposed to do that for.
His middle name is Hussein.
That’s it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The whole Circle

I saw the whole circle last Sunday night at the Punchline.
Kevin Avery, a friend and comic is doing it. He is making the move to L.A. Since we love him and wanted to wish him well we did the only logical thing; roasted him.
You know how these work. You have seen them on Comedy Central. One by one, a select group of comics went up and made fun of him. It was excellent!
I had the weakest set by far. Felt bad about it too. I didn't riff. I should of. I had some good jokes on paper, but they got lost along the way to my mouth. That freaks me out a little. It has happened a few times with me lately. Everyone else seemed to come up with some gems. Me, not so much. I know not to dwell on it. I know it is best to not make a big deal about it and move forward. It will pass. Always has.
Here is the circle of life as lived in San Francisco Comedy.
One day, after you have built up sufficient courage and tried out your jokes at open mic's, you come to the Punchline and introduce yourself.
The Punchline Baby!
It has to be in the top ten of best comedy clubs in the nation. It is Dave Chappelles S.F. home club. It was the stage that propelled some of the most talented and amazing comics on to stardom.
We all want to put our foot print on that kind of history.
The hope is the same for everyone. It was the same hope I walk in with more than 15 years ago. You hope to hear something like, "Thanks for showing up. Were glad to have you. Sure, we will get you up on stage as soon as possible. Whats that? Oh, your really good. Great! Will get you up sooner then!"
By the way. Thats not how it ever happens kids.
As people filed out, I was standing next to Molly. A kid came up to her, tattered note book clutched in his undoubtedly sweaty palm, and with all the confidence of a weak cup of tea, introduced himself.
I had to smile.
Molly listened politely as she always does if your not crazy, and told him it would take about ten months before he set foot on stage. You could see what little bit of hope he was holding onto drain from his face.
I remember.
We were all there once. I smiled not because I enjoy to see a young comic feel crushed, but this was the circle completing itself just as it always has. One of us leaves and another one enters with expectations and the indestructible pride of youth.
Good luck kid.
You are entering the center of San Francisco comedy scene.
The San Francisco comedy scene! Not some open Mic where people do their clothing. Not some space in the corner of a bar. The Punchline.
We are the best comics in the country. I still believe that. We put a premium on originality. We police each other to stay fresh and avoid what has been done before. We have produced too many comics to mention who stand head and shoulders above the pack of wannabe's.
First lesson; you have to swallow a daily dose of rejection to be build up an immunity. It ain't easy. But you learn to swallow it down like cold medicine. Just don't make that face when it's happening.
Look around the back of the room on any Sunday night. You will see a hundred or more faces all looking at the stage like a dying man dreams of water. They are all convinced of two things.
They could do better than the person on stage now.
They will get on next week.
A hundred or more people! Your funny? Great. Now get in line.
It sucks. It's hard and it is a gut wrenching blow to your self-esteem. But its a system. No one ever put it down on paper or probably gave it much thought, but it's the system we all came up in.
You know what though? It filters out a lot of the hobbyist and wannabes. It serves a purpose. And believe me, if this is going to stop you from trying to be a comic, you might as well get out now. It will only get tougher along the way. Just like the people who stuck with it.
Thats the circle of comedy in San Francisco.
Good luck Kevin. I will miss you.
Welcome new kid. Hang in there.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


This is Youssif.
A year ago, he was a victim in a terrorist attack on Bagdad. He got lucky. He got flown to America to be treated for his third degree burns and mangled body.
Because 6 years after we invaded the country it still did not have adequate hospital care. You also have to wonder about all of the other children in Iraq who were not so lucky enough to become little propaganda tools. Strangely, those kids are the ones injured by American Bombs.
Thats how the worlds most cruel lottery works.
Get injured by one of their attacks, and if you are under 5, we will take care of you.
Get injured by one of our attacks. Well, thats collateral damage and we feel bad, but thats just the nature of war.
Here is another dirty little secret of the Iraq war.
It has become the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the creation of Israel nearly 60 years ago. According to U.N. estimates, there may be as many as 3.7 million Iraqis made homeless inside and outside the country by the violence. Some are being compensated by their losses if the U.S. military is responsible; most flee with nothing.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, acutely aware of criticism over America’s closed-door policy for Iraqis, is working on a plan that would permit up to 20,000 Iraqis into the country.
Why would we have a closed-door policy do you suppose?
Oh yeah. We invaded the wrong country for 9/11 (can never be said enough) and any Iraqi coming here might not be so grateful as a five year old boy receiving free medical care.
They get screwed twice.
First when we show up to insist on democracy from the barrel of a gun, and then again when we refuse to allow them to leave the ruins for the fabled land of opportunity.
But you people go ahead and wear your little flag pins. Scream bloody murder when Obama's wife said this is the first time in her adult life that she is proud of America.
Clearly, we are not all as lucky as little Youssif.
After-all, he gets free health care.
Just like the Senators and Congressman who made the choice to get us into this disaster.
Perhaps the solution for those millions of uninsured American kids is to ship them off to Iraq, hope they get wounded by one of their bombs and if they are cute enough- you win!
To cynical?
Frankly, after doing that comedy tour of Marine bases in Okinawa, Japan, it looks like all we have is children fighting this dirty little war.
Shouldn't you have to be able to grow a real mustache before we ask you to make the ultimate sacrifice?
I don't know.
Have you been on YouTube lately? You can see a lot of uncensored footage of the war. I think we need to stop calling it a war too. from what I have been told by people returning and the footage you can see on line, shooting gallery might be a better description of things.
I think Youssif deserves everything he is getting.
Help, that is.
But when he grows up and looks in the mirror as a young man, you have to wonder if he will think it was all worth it. Hell, you have to wonder if any Iraqi thinks it is worth it.
If 70% of Americans think it was a mistake, what do you think the poll numbers would be like over there?
To dangerous to ask I suppose.

This Just In...

Oh Hillary.
You really are making history. It has to be the first time ever that a white woman complained that a black man doesn't have enough experience.

What is it to be patriotic?
Is it being in favor of endless war, going around our ideals and laws to tap phone calls without a warrant and torturing people with simulated drowning?
Or is it wearing a flag pin on your lapel?
Cause I gotta tell you tell you conservatives, using jewelry to express yourself is pretty gay.
The kids call it bling. I call it dumb.
Do you know where most of those U.S. flag pins come from?
Those yellow ribbon support the troops magnets too.
If you want a strong America, buying anything from our chief economic rival is against your best interest.
Great. You have a little pin on your suit that is suppose to tell me you are more American than me. Check out the label in side my shirt. I looked to make sure it was made here. You see what I am getting at?
Conservatives want to criticize Obama for not wearing a $2.00 pin on his suit. Yeah. Thats the major issue we need to deal with right now. I know if I was about to loose my home due to the mortgage crisis and my son was on his third tour of duty in Iraq, I would want to see a politician wearing the right pin. Otherwise, how would I know I don't believe in what he believes? I might have to listen or even go on the internet. No. Far easier to just check and see if he has a little American flag made in china on his lapel. That way I know he is the bad candidate for president.
Head in the game America!
The label that says my shirt was made in America can't be seen by anyone else. I don't feel the need to wear it on the outside to make a point. I just do the right thing rather than allow myself an attitude of superiority for wearing something that turns out to be bad for our country.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A priest a kid and a raffle all get together at a winery.

My latest gig adventure sounds like the set up to an old joke; A priest a kid and a raffle all get together at a winery.
Thats what I had to follow.
Private gigs really are the bread and butter of a comics life. I love playing a club with no restrictions on content and language, but in all honesty its those lucrative privates that pay the rent most months.
Lately, it seems that when ever I have a gig that requires me to drive more than an hour, the skies open up and God sends a flood that would even make Noah say, Holy Shit!
I drove up with a rare combination of person; a friend and the Booker.
He drove.
I was grateful for that until we got in his 1987 Toyota death trap pick up. With all the cold and rain the windshield defroster was more a theory than a working device in his truck. While we got pelted with gusts of wind and curtains of rain, I spent most of the white knuckle ride craning my head forward so I could look for an address threw the tiny hole of clear windshield in front of me.
What is it with me and Napa? Every time I come up here the news is telling people not to travel unless you have to.
I am at Down Town Joe's in Napa next month.
I can predict now that there will be a major storm on that night.

All we know about this gig is its a benefit for a local school and they want material on the Oscar nominated movies. It is being held at a winery and all I am required to do is 10 minuets.
This is the classic bank job gig.
We go in and do the thing. No one gets hurt and were gone with the money before anyone can look up from their banquet style rubber chicken.
Driving an hour in the rain to do ten minuets might seem silly, but the money was OK for how short they wanted the set. It felt like we were in some boat race. Get up there as fast as we could, round the buoy and head home with the prize money.
But there was just one wrinkle.
The school, was a private Catholic school.

There was indeed an Oscars theme. People are dressed up as stars and movie characters. In fact, we walked in on a red carpet and were greeted at the door by two beautiful people holding fake microphones. They are playing the part of interviewers on the red carpet. Its a nice touch. Too bad the parking lot has turned to mud. The red carpet looks like the nicest welcome mat I have ever seen covered with muddy foot prints and smears.
Once we get in, the Booker and I are thinking the same thing, we should of asked for more money.
Its a very elaborate party they have set up. In a main room, there are a hundred or so round banquet tables. They are about 30 feet from the stage, the floor is concert and here is my favorite part-the room is ice cold. Sure, they have 4 of those giant heat lamps scattered among the tables, but unless your inside the 20 foot circle of warmth, forget it. How do I fully impart to you how cold it is in this place? How about this. Standing "back stage" I can see my breath.
Thats how cold it is.
You know, if I sat down to design a worse format to attempt stand-up comedy in, this is probably what I would of come up with.
Lets review-
Concert floor. Lousy for acoustics in a giant hall.
Freezing cold temperature to make everyone want to end this thing quickly.
Round banquet tables to insure that at any given moment half the crowd has their back to me.
Going up while people are eating.
Before I go on, lets have a priest right out of central casting complete with a thick Irish accent go up and lead everyone in the lords prayer.
Then, lets have a kid go up and read his winning essay titled, Blessed. Its an ass kissing ode to how great the school is.
Check and F'ing mate!
Were not done yet.
When the kid reads the essay he mentions all the fun things you can sign up to do. Like math Therapy.
This just begged to be made fun of. But considering the average age of the room was 60 and they gave off that mix of religion and closed mindedness, I thought I would let that slide.
Math Therapy though?
"My mother won't give me the love I need doctor."
"Go to the board and work out this long division problem."
I know my bank account could use some math therapy.
Right before I am introduced they have a raffle where someone wins $5,000
They just gave away five grand and how much am I getting for this gig?
Here is the other very important little fact that dawns on us. No one in this crowd saw any of the Oscar nominated movies.
There will be Blood?
You mean the movie that mocks a preacher and kills him?
A movie about a teen age girl who gets pregnant after having sex?
Need I go on?
Maybe they saw No Country for Old Men, about a psychotic hit man killing like most of us breathe, but the joke I have written for it sure ain't gonna fly with this bunch.
I thought no country for old men was about John MaCane.
These people are going to vote for this guy!

People always wonder why I charge what I charge for what they see as a simple gig. This is why.
I have 45 minuets to rethink what will work and what will not. In other words, here comes the riff gun once more folks!
Yet another reason that riffing is a genuine skill and not a cheap trick.
OK. So I am following a priest, a kid and a raffle. Big deal. Lets do this.
By far my biggest laugh came when I found the table that the owner of the winery was at and I said, "Nice place you have here. One suggestion; heat!"
10 minuets went by and that was that.
As we walked out with our cheek, a big guy in a white tux came after us. I had mentioned I was from Illinois in the act. Right before we hit the soggy red carpet to make our clean escape, he started yelling "Illinois! Hold on a second!"
The Booker and I trade glances of, our we about to get killed? The man is towering. Way above my height and I am guessing by what he said, more than a little drunk.
"I lived in Illinois until I married into this 3rd generation Napa wine thing."
I swear to God. That is an exact quote. The love might be lost when you start referring to your wife as "thing."
"You did great! We thought you were very funny. It has to be hard doing comedy for a bunch of people who can't admit they have dicks. How do you think your children got here. Men have dicks and women have pussys. Get over it."
OK. At this point, were just sorta stuck there. Inching our way slowly toward the door, we are trapped in this mans gravitational field. Besides, how do you respond to that?
"We should have you up at the house sometime. We have Sammy Haggar and Cake come up. You could join us. We have a lot of acreage. You could come up and goof off."
Dude, if you know Sammy Hagar, why was I hired to work a benefit for a school up here? Then, were out the door and back in the death trap for a ride back to the city. We laugh about the gig and the Booker is very complimentary of my performance, but I know it could of been so much better if the set up was actually set up for a live show.
I have done church gigs before. That was not the problem. It is this mentality that comedy is something you put in a corner and press play on. Like I am a human Muzak station.
All in all it went pretty well though. Easy money? Not really. Man i was dancing for those ten minuets!

Dear Ralph Nader

Dear Ralph Nader,
Of course it is a free country and you are allowed to do what you feel is best. No one argues that point. Just by the very fact that Hillary and Obama are politicians should make any rational person more than skeptical about their plans for change. You are correct in stating that. But this is more about math than anything else. Fact is, a vote for you is a vote not going to the Democrats.
They have more than screwed up and it is mystifying as to why they cannot seem to stand up to Bush. Time and time again, they have voted right alongside their Republican colleagues to fund the war and sign legislation into law that is tantamount to taking white out to the constitution.
I am with you on all of those issues.
But as I said, it is a numbers game. You know and I know that you cannot win the White House. Lets face facts. A vote for you then is a vote for the Republicans. Not change. That is just a fact Mr. Nader. The more votes you pull from Moderates and undecided voters, the less votes the Democratic Nominee for President will get.
I believe the nominee will be Obama. Hillary is republican lite with a voting record virtually identical to John McCain’s.
At this point, I seriously wonder if you are a secret paid operative for the Republican Party. A sort of Manchurian candidate activated around elections to sabotage the Democrats hopes.
A lot of people not only blame you for Al Gores loss in 2000, but by extension, they blame you for the war in Iraq. Whatever faults Al Gore had, it is pretty certain that 9/11 and its aftermath would have been handled very differently.
You have argued that Al Gore was responsible for losing his own election because he ran a bad campaign. There is some truth in that. But consider, if you were not on the ballot in Florida, perhaps a lot of that confusion never would of happened. Perhaps the count would of overwhelming gone to Gore. Two years after the Supreme Court upheld the, stop the recount order, the New York Times went back and counted all the votes.
You know what they found?
They found that Gore won the popular vote in Florida.
History has already made it clear that Al Gore was elected President by a slim majority of the American people. The majority was so slim because you thought it would be a good idea to enter the race for change. Well, we now have another man who speaks a lot about change too. He has reenergized not just the Democratic Party, but also the whole process of politics. He may not have all the right answers to your valid questions, but in my opinion, he is better than Hillary Clinton for the job and by far he is better for this country than any conservative nominee the Republicans choose to endorse.
If you want change as so many people do, make yourself available to Obamas campaign. Offer your wisdom and knowledge to him as an asset, not as a competitor who will only diminish the chance of getting someone in there who isn’t a bible waving war loving nut job. Head in the game man! It is pretty clear that a vote for you is a vote to keep us in Iraq, “for a hundred years or more” as McCane has said. Do you want that? You’re a smart man and you have to know this. You just have too. So why would you do this? Is it your ego? Is it a misplaced sense of justice? What is the reason?
In many interviews you have said that the best thing to effect change is to get third party candidates elected at the grass roots level. School boards, Mayors, then up to Governors and Senators. When a solid base of alternative party members controls the mechanics of government, then electing one to the highest office in the land will be possible.
Why don’t you follow your own advice? 4 years since your last run and what have you been doing? Were you out there organizing a third party to strategically win public office at the grass roots level? Nope. You were raising money for yet another kamikaze run at the White House. Come to your sense Mr. Nader. I think you are a great American who has saved lives by pushing for and getting laws passed to insure safe products for Americans.
You have much to offer America. But not as President and certainly not as the Republicans best weapon to stall any change.
Just think about Ralph.